Monday, April 22, 2013

A Tender Balance

Lately I feel as though I've been drowning in a sea of self-imposed pressure to 'do something' with my life. I seem to be clumsily treading in the waters of 'just making it', never able to lift my head high enough to take a breath of satisfaction. Where there once lived an insatiable drive to pursue every opportunity handed to me, I find myself eating cookies and reading Glamour magazine in my spare time. My justification is "what could I possibly accomplish in this hour I have to myself?" When my answer is "nothing productive", I get out the Costco tub of Pillsburry cookie dough and sit on the Lazy Boy. "I deserve this", I tell myself. But don't I deserve more?

I peruse Pinterest and the blogosphere and encounter women who are mothers of 4 with successful careers and beautifully decorated homes, who just happen to have made homemade Gatorade for their sick children. And I feel wholly inadequate.

I am a waitress.

My house looks like a Goodwill poster.

And I can't even keep it clean.

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mother, and I have found more satisfaction in the calling of motherhood than any other job or degree could offer me. I look at my daughter's sleeping face and know that if I did nothing else with my life, having loved and raised her would be enough. Still, I can't help but shake this pervasive feeling that I could be more productive with my time, and that my window to seize the moment is quickly coming to a close. Women are becoming more successful at a younger age, and it leaves me feeling as though my prime is slipping into the periphery.

This self-inflicted sense of persecution contrasted against my lack of ambition follows me around everywhere I go. It seeps into my pores, leaving me feeling unsatisfied in the happiest of moments. I see resentment creeping into my veins. I hear my voice growing curt and abrasive with Harper. I am unable to be in the moment, because I'm always thinking about what more fulfilling things the moment could bring. And so, in the pursuit of 'something more', I end up with less.

Today, I woke up with renewed resolve, and a new perspective on what it means to be accomplished. I proverbially shook myself by the shoulders and shouted "You're not past your prime. You're not getting too old. You're not a Pinterest perfect mom. But you have a beautiful, happy family. Be okay with it."

I have decided to enjoy each moment, whether that means making Play-Doh pizzas on our scuffed wood floors, or writing a book, or eating a chocolate chip cookie while watching New Girl, or analyzing current affairs, or laying in bed with my husband and daughter on a sunny Sunday morning. I will no longer allow myself to give in to the choking anxiety that accompanies the thought "what more could I be doing?"

I will allow myself to believe that there is a season for everything, and that opportunities and 'success' will come in time. I will not give in to the counter-productive logic that an hour isn't enough. I will strive to use those sporadic hour sessions to do something fulfilling while still allowing myself guilt-free magazine and cookie sessions. Because I deserve to relax. But I also deserve feeling accomplished, productive and satisfied.

Most importantly, I will remember that raising my child in love and peace is more meaningful than having a blog-worthy home, or being published in the New York Times, or any other temporal gauge of success.

Today I have come to believe that it is in the sacrificial act of motherhood that we come to find the tender balance between selflessness and self worth.